I often get asked if you can use Copic markers over pencil.
It’s not a surprising question. You don’t want to damage your precious markers after all.
And if you are looking for the super short answer:
Using Copic markers over pencil can be detrimental to the nib of the marker.
But of course, there is a lot more to the answer than just that.
Your marker isn’t going to stop working as soon as you hit a graphite pencil line. It’s a much slower process.
And the type of pencil and paper you use have a big impact as well.
Let’s first take a look at what happens when you use Copic markers over graphite pencils, and then we’ll consider colored pencils after that.
Copic markers over graphite pencils
Like many artists, you probably use graphite pencils to make a sketch or outline of your final drawing.
Graphite pencils are great for this, because they can be easily erased when you make any mistakes.
But anyone that has used graphite pencils knows that you can also ruin a sketch by accidentally smudging a line with your hand.
This is because not all the graphite is stuck to the paper. Graphite pencils have the tendency to leave a little residue behind on the paper.
You can’t see it very well, but it’s definitely there. And there are two problems when your Copic marker comes in contact with the graphite.
First of all, the alcohol-based ink of your Copic marker will lift the graphite and spread it out. This leads to feathering and your line work will look blurred as a result.
Secondly, some of the graphite will get stuck to the nib of your marker. The graphite stain is very difficult to even if you try to remove it right away.
This by itself is enough to drive some people crazy. But to be honest, if you use your markers over graphite pencils once or twice, it doesn’t hurt that much.
However, if you keep coloring over your pencil lines, the graphite can accumulate and slowly start to clog the nib.
This is definitely not ideal. But don’t forget that Copic nibs are replaceable and not super expensive either. (You can buy them on Amazon by clicking here).
The graphite pencil you are using also determines how bad it is for you Copic nibs to go over pencil lines.
Softer pencils leave more graphite behind on the paper. And as a result your marker nibs can get clogged more quickly.
Hard pencils leave less residue on the page and are therefore less harmful.
On the flip side, lines by soft pencils are easier to erase and better suited for sketching than hard pencils.
So if you want to color over pencil, you might have to find a good balance.
Tips & tricks
If you want to combine Copic markers and graphite pencils anyways, here are a few quick things to consider:
- Color up to the graphite lines and don’t go over them.
- If you have to go over lines, move along the lines and not across them.
- Use a fixative on your pencil work before using Copic markers.
- Try different types of paper to see which one works best.
The perfect solution?!
If you don’t want to run the risk of clogging your Copic marker nibs, a good solution is to first ink your line art and then erase the pencil lines.
To do this, you will need a pen that has “Copic-proof” ink. Meaning that the ink won’t bleed once you go over it with Copic markers. Many people choose to use the Copic Multiliner inking pen for this. (You can find this pen on Amazon by clicking here).
Sure, this adds an addition step. But it’s definitely worth it.
I personally like black line art around my illustrations.
But if that’s not your style, you can also use a pen with gray ink. Which results in lines that are much less prominent in the final result.
Copic markers over colored pencils
Now let’s take a look at what happens when you use your Copic markers over colored pencils.
You might expect this to be similar to the graphite pencils we just talked about.
But types of pencils are actually quite different.
Instead of the graphite lead, the colored pencils are made by using pigment and a binder such as wax or oil.
And the problem with this binder is that it can be dissolved in alcohol.
So if you use your Copic markers over colored pencils, you don’t only have bleeding due to some of the residue on the page. But you also might end up slowly erasing the pencil coloring.
As a result the nib will clog much faster when going over colored pencils compared to graphite pencils. And you probably have to replace your nibs more often.
Successfully combining Copic markers and colored pencils
All of this doesn’t mean that Copic markers and colored pencils aren’t compatible.
I actually love to use colored pencils to compliment Copic markers.
However, as a general rule of thumb you want to first use your markers and then you colored pencils.
This also plays to the strength of both mediums.
For example, you can sharpen the tip a colored pencil much to be much smaller than the average Copic nib.
So you can first use your Copic markers to color large areas with smooth colors. And then you can fill in smaller details and add texture with your colored pencils.
This also has the added benefit that you don’t have to wet the paint again just to add some small details.
So what about other types of pencils like charcoal or pastel pencils?
I don’t have much experience using Copic over these types of pencils. But my educated guess is that it wouldn’t be a pretty sight.
As I said before, the more residue the pencil leaves on the page, the faster your Copic nibs will clog.
And both charcoal and pastel pencils leave a ton of residue. That’s why they smudge so easily and blend so well.
So I wouldn’t expect Copic markers to survive very long if you use them to color over either.
Going over pencil with Copic markers can harm your markers.
But the type of pencil you use has a hug impact on determining how bad it actually is.
Very hard graphite pencils like leave a stain on the marker nib, but only have a small risk of cloggin the nib.
Softer pencils leave more residue on the page and will clog your nib much faster.
Fortunately, Copic nibs can be replaced and aren’t very expensive. So there isn’t a huge downside to trying it yourself.